As I prepare to drop off my daughter to a Barbie Princess birthday party, I can’t help but take in the scene: crown molding, gorgeous granite countertops, color-coordinated décor with accent pieces, and a perfectly polished Mom/Queen of the Universe. She is immaculate. She is congenial. She is articulate.
I am not.
Thankfully it’s winter. Other than a single visible piercing, and my intense social awkwardness, there is nothing to say that “I’m not like her.” Perhaps my leather jacket is an odd choice for a snowy winter day, and I am noticeably younger than my peers, but other than that I look and sound like any other mom.
In my small, traditional town, however, I am not. My winter apparel serves me well in covering my tattoos and mohawk. My appearance here does not speak to my often scary artwork covering my walls, nor does it speak to my often scarier looking husband.
In my town, like so many small towns, perception is everything. At this point, I can no longer count the times I’ve had a fellow parent assume that I’m either unemployed or a stay-at-home parent. Nothing is wrong with either of these things, except for the visible shock on their faces when they discover that I have a high profile corporate job, and my husband is a successful business owner. If I had a dollar for every time someone said “Wow! Good for you!” with the tone of voice you’d use when praising a dog who rolled over upon command, I too would be a successful business owner.
Thankfully over the years I’ve developed a thick skin. It didn’t matter to me what these people thought… until my daughter came into the picture.
Then the fears ran rampant: Will she be invited to playdates? Will she be ashamed of me at parent-teacher meetings? Will she get in trouble for her inherited penchant for dark artwork? Is my outward appearance going to ruin her life? Will she hate me and wish I was a little more June Cleaver and a little less Morticia Addams?
The answer I’ve discovered after years of searching for it is NO.
One day at daycare, my daughter, and her friends were overheard having a venting session about their parents. One of her teachers couldn’t help but eavesdrop on the conversation. When it was my daughter’s turn to vent she said, “My mom is the coolest mom ever. She has a leather jacket and listens to the best music.” Her friends then told her how lucky she is.
What I failed to account for, in my fears, is that children can be so empathetic and so accepting. They don’t have the prejudices that develop as we get older and more cynical. They can cure you of the jaded world-weary thoughts and feelings with a few simple words, or a spontaneous hug.
In truth, I also failed by letting my fear of rejection build walls against these other parents. Over time I’ve developed positive relationships with these individuals. We no longer see each other as polar opposites, but as parents who are simply trying to raise their kids to be good people.
My daughter is a ballerina with a flowery pink bedroom, who prefers to spend her free time playing with spiders in her old band t-shirts. She’s developing diverse interests and creating her own offbeat path rather than adhering to societal norms.
My offbeat lifestyle is not damaging my child; it’s enriching her life.